back to article Geomagnetic storm takes out 40 of 49 brand new Starlink satellites

SpaceX last week launched 49 shiny new Starlink broadband-beaming satellites, which is good. But 40 of them have already, or will shortly, meet their demise due to a geomagnetic storm that struck a few days after their ascent. Which is bad. All 49 satellites reached their planned 210km perigee deployment orbit, though the …

  1. The Man Who Fell To Earth Silver badge
    FAIL

    No loss

    Musk has had my deposit for over a year and still no service.

    1. ShadowSystems Silver badge

      Re: No loss

      Your specific satelite was one of the ones that just went poof. He'll require another wad of cash if you want him to try again.

      *Hands you an extra tall tankard*

      Drink up, you now know how most women feel when some <hiss>man</hiss> promises to call them the morning after.

      *Cough*

      I ah, I uh, I mean... ummmm... please don't cry, it waters down the beer! =-Jp

      1. sabroni Silver badge
        Facepalm

        Re: how most women feel when some <hiss>man</hiss> promises to call them the morning after.

        Men, of course, are never upset if someone they fancy doesn't call back. We're much too rough and tough for that.

        FFS it's 2022, do we still need to be peddling this pathetic gender based bollocks? What was wrong with "how most people feel when someone promises to call them the morning after"? Just had to slip a little bigotry in.....

        1. PenfoldUK

          Re: how most women feel when some <hiss>man</hiss> promises to call them the morning after.

          Given that SpaceX, Starlink and even Tesla are heavily associated with billionaire Elon Musk, I don't think it's sexist to refer to a man in this instance.

          He doesn't strike me as the kind of man who'd ring back unless he's interested in you birthing his Imperial Progeny*

          *Intentional reference to Ming the Merciless in the 1980's Flash Gordon film.

    2. Bruce Hoult

      Re: No loss

      I signed up to rent a house that had no internet service possible on January 3 2022, went to the STARLINK site and paid my money, and had the equipment (shipped from California to New Zealand) on January 14, a full week before I actually moved in.

      1. Steve Button Silver badge

        Re: No loss

        "rent a house that had no internet service"

        Shudder. Why would you even.

        I mean StarLink is a nice backup option and all, but how reliable / fast is it?

        1. big_D Silver badge

          Re: No loss

          We were getting around 200mbps in testing. We had a site in the middle of nowhere, 1mbps DSL, 5mbps LTE, Starlink made a big difference.

          Sometimes you have no choice, broadband isn't available everywhere or is very slow.

          1. Lotaresco

            Re: No loss

            "Sometimes you have no choice, broadband isn't available everywhere or is very slow."

            There is a choice, but it's not offering quite the same service. OneWeb offers the same 200Mbps speed but has a business model that means they are unlikely to supply to individuals. Governments, corporates, telcos, education seem to be their target markets.

            1. iron Silver badge

              Re: No loss

              No, the choice is to make sure you have good internet or don't buy / rent the property in the first place.

              1. big_D Silver badge

                Re: No loss

                If there is just no broadband in the area, you don’t have a lot of choice.

                If you have to live in a more remote area, out in the countryside, you don’t have much of a choice.

          2. Roland6 Silver badge

            Re: No loss

            Is it good enough for Zoom?

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: No loss

              Starlink has been great for Zoom in my experience. I do have an installation that has no obstructions, that seems to be a big factor. I should not that I'm not on zoom 8 hours a day, if you WFH, you may have more issues than I see.

          3. Alan Brown Silver badge

            Re: No loss

            And THAT is exactly the gap that Starlink is designed to fill

          4. MachDiamond Silver badge

            Re: No loss

            "Sometimes you have no choice, broadband isn't available everywhere or is very slow."

            That's true, but is there enough people in the same boat to be able to maintain 42,000 satellites in orbit (Official number from Elon or Gwen) with a better than 3% failure rate and a five year life span? Can they afford to provide $1,500 dishes to people for $500 for very long?

            There is a price to pay for the peace and quiet living back and beyond.

        2. SundogUK Silver badge

          Re: No loss

          Knowing New Zealand internet speeds generally, StarLink is probably not bad.

        3. steamdesk_ross

          Re: No loss

          I've had it for 18 months because in our rural location we would typically only get 1-3Mbps, not enough to accomodate the "work from home" directives. 4G wasn't quite up to the job, reception is flaky here and often dropped to 3G. Starlink was a life saver. It has proved very reliable for, so much so that when I started working from the office again and only really used broadband at home for gaming and video streaming services I still couldn't bear to give it up and return to a landline or 4G provider. In fact, I even gave up the land line completely during the interval, although I did wait 6 months to decide if I could take that step. The quality is fine, my only fears are around the cost - they more or less have me over a barrel - and its longevity (presumably if it doesn't prove a money maker the plug will get pulled at some point).

    3. adam 40 Silver badge

      LoS

      There - fixed that for you!

    4. emfiliane

      Re: No loss

      And today you just found out that a handful of satellites are cheaper to make and launch than a million base stations. Economy of scale only gets you so far.

      1. Blank Reg Silver badge

        Re: No loss

        But those handful of satellites have far less total capacity than a terrestrial solution. And a much shorter lifespan.

        1. ravenviz Silver badge

          Re: No loss

          Although they will have heaps of redundancy.

        2. The Oncoming Scorn Silver badge
          Coat

          Re: No loss

          About a week or two in this case.

    5. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: No loss

      Perhaps one of those de-orbiting satellites will land on his head and remind him…

    6. MachDiamond Silver badge

      Re: No loss

      Elon has money from people that want a Semi, Cybertruck and may be really close to returning the reservation money to people that thought they were going to be able to purchase a Model 3 for $35,000. Just wait, very soon you will be able to reserve the chance to buy your first brain implant or sewer tunnel. If you already own a Tesla, do you have your deposit (or full payment) in place for Full Self Driving?

      ViaSat has new sats going up and Hughes may also bolster their assets. There are at least three more systems just like Starlink lofting satellites even though there isn't likely the business case to make any one of these new players profitable.

  2. ecofeco Silver badge

    No shielding?

    Well derp, derp, derp.

    1. Charles 9 Silver badge

      Re: No shielding?

      Shielding is actually detrimental against drag. The problem isn't the storm itself but the fact said storms kick up the high atmosphere, which is still prevalent in such a low orbit. Basically, the storm stirred up extra turbulence, causing the satellites to de-orbit early due to the increased drag. It's an unfortunate trade-off when you insist on low-latency satellite communications. Speed of light and all that.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: No shielding?

        "It's an unfortunate trade-off when you insist on low-latency satellite communications."

        Should also note that the affected satellites were at something like 50% of their operational altitudes. They're intentionally inserted very low so that failed satellites will quickly decay. I think the low initial orbit also helps with the process of getting to their assigned "slots", but I don't understand the orbital mechanics that well.

        1. HildyJ Silver badge
          Boffin

          Re: No shielding? (initial orbit)

          The procedure SpaceX uses is to initially orbit the satellites in a very low Earth orbit.

          They then are tested and any that fail testing are left in the low orbit to rapidly deorbit (to reduce non-operational space junk).

          Those that pass the test are moved to their operating orbit.

          Because of the increased atmospheric drag from the geomagnetic storm, 40 of the 46 were determined to lack the fuel to move them to their operational orbit.

          These 40 are the ones which will rapidly deorbit.

        2. MachDiamond Silver badge

          Re: No shielding?

          "They're intentionally inserted very low so that failed satellites will quickly decay."

          That's a happy byproduct for PR spin. They're released low so they can be guided to their intended orbits and the maximum number can be launched per rocket. Oddly, lowering an orbit can take more delta V. The reason this launch had 49 instead of the more common 60 satellites was due to the launch profile. I also guessed that getting the empty back was worth more than saving weight and dropping the first stage in the drink.

    2. ShadowSystems Silver badge

      Re: No shielding?

      Shielding is both expensive to create, heavy, and then doubly expensive as the additional weight takes greater resources to get into space.

      They skipped installing it (save money), used the weight savings to include a larger electronics package (more functionality per kg), and thus the lighter weight cost less to lob into space (or allowed more satelites to be lobbed for the same original price).

      Yes the lack of it meant that the silly buggers got blown out of the sky the first time the sun farted, but the money saved means they can afford to fling another load to try again.

      *Hands you a pint*

      Drink up, it'll help drown the jealousy over not having a few hundred billion bucks of our own. =-Jp

  3. Kevin McMurtrie Silver badge

    Star Trek Voyager

    I'm surprised that Musk didn't bark "PUNCH IT" to reach orbit before the space anomaly solar wind fried the live electronics.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Star Trek Voyager

      Try reading. The electronics were not fried. Solar flares, when they hit the Earth, cause the atmosphere to expand. That causes the drag on LEO satellites to increase substantially. (Yes, there is still atmospheric drag that isn't negligible 100's of kilometers up.) That caused the satellites to start deorbiting.

      1. Dante Alighieri Bronze badge
        Boffin

        Re: Star Trek Voyager

        So will the next Carrington Event help clear lots of junk in LEO as well as the satellites?

        1. Alan Brown Silver badge

          Re: Star Trek Voyager

          The problematic junk isn't low enough to be affected much by atmospheric expansion, or it would be taken down already

          As is being _repeatedly_ pointed out, Starlink put their birds into exceptionally low initial orbits, specifically so any DOA units won't cause clutter. That's absolutely critical when you're launching so many of the things

          The issue we're seeing does bring up the point that "Laser Brooms" can be used to help deorbit small junk though. The problem is that anyone who deploys the tech to do this can also deorbot equipment belonging to countries they're not friendly witrh

          Cleaning up orbiting debris is less technically fraugt than politically - what's needed is for a joint body to oversee a cleanup effort but there aren't enough adults in the room (and the biggest messy kid with a temper is also the one with the biggest mouth and most weapons)

          1. uptoeleven
            FAIL

            Re: Star Trek Voyager

            Wouldn't the other problem with laser brooms be that they get very warm very quickly? Even LED lasers?

            The heat doesn't have anywhere to go. Space is very cold but is also very empty and dissipating heat via radiation is the least efficient way to cool anything down - which is why stars stay very hot even when the fuel runs out.

            Normally when we have something hot we blow on it - conduction and convection work far more efficiently than radiation. This, ironically, is how radiators work - not by radiation at all.

            In the near-vacuum of space there is nothing to conduct or convect heat, there is only radiation. So wouldn't lasers burn out very quickly?

            1. phuzz Silver badge

              Re: Star Trek Voyager

              Although getting rid of heat via radiation is not very efficient, it does still work, and that's exactly how spacecraft cool down.

              Wikipedia says somewhere between 100-350W dissipated per square metre, which sounds restrictive, but you need about twice that area of solar panels to make the same amount of electricity.

              So for a 1kW laser, you'd maybe have a pair of 1x10m solar panels, and a 1x7m radiator (probably at a right-angle to the solar). (approximate numbers)

              1. MachDiamond Silver badge

                Re: Star Trek Voyager

                "Wikipedia says somewhere between 100-350W dissipated per square metre, which sounds restrictive, but you need about twice that area of solar panels to make the same amount of electricity."

                If you look at photos of ISS, the smaller panels are heat radiators not solar PV.

            2. MachDiamond Silver badge

              Re: Star Trek Voyager

              "In the near-vacuum of space there is nothing to conduct or convect heat, there is only radiation. So wouldn't lasers burn out very quickly?"

              Yes. That's why military programs were testing the idea of putting the lasers on an aircraft that could fly high up and directly target something or use mirrors on sats to direct a beam.

      2. This post has been deleted by its author

      3. Kevin McMurtrie Silver badge

        Re: Star Trek Voyager

        I did read it. The solar storm interrupted navigation to the proper orbit because the sats had to be switched to safe mode. While they were low, the disturbance added too much atmospheric drag for some to recover from.

        1. MachDiamond Silver badge

          Re: Star Trek Voyager

          "The solar storm interrupted navigation to the proper orbit because the sats had to be switched to safe mode. "

          Safe Mode in this instance is turning the sats edge on to the direction of travel and not deploying the solar panels rather than turning off computer/electronics. They were trying to minimize drag long enough to weather the storm. It wasn't enough.

      4. Jaybus

        Re: Star Trek Voyager

        The solar wind actually compresses the magnetosphere on the sunward side, but the problem is caused by the particle energy injected into the Earth's magnetosphere causing currents and increasing the energy of ions in the ionosphere.

    2. MyffyW Silver badge

      Fly Casual

      ... cue starlink sat walking with hands in pockets, whistling a little tune

  4. Bartholomew Bronze badge
    Terminator

    Skynet

    49 out of how 2,091 satellites, when it is eventually up to 42,000 satellites that will be fun.

    1. Flocke Kroes Silver badge

      Re: Skynet

      The actual figures were 40/49. All the other satellites had already raised their orbit and were in no danger from Earth's atmosphere being kicked up by a coronal mass ejection.

      What would make a difference is launching with a Starship instead of a Falcon 9. More satellites on each launch and rumours are that the satellites will be bigger and heavier. That future generation of satellite may be more or less susceptible depending on whether size or mass increases fastest.

      1. tony72

        Re: Skynet

        They can easily avoid launching during such a geomagnetic storm, of course. Knowing SpaceX, they chose to launch this batch anyway just to test whether riding out the storm was an option.

        1. Lon24 Silver badge

          Re: Skynet

          Yes, and extremely disappointing that El Reg failed to give the Beaufort scale of this storm. I believe some satellites do have 'sails' so it would have been a doddle to check.

          1. eldel

            Re: Skynet

            To the best of my knowledge the only satellite with a sail that's currently up there is Light Sail 2.

            You could try asking the Planetary Society (who own and operate it) if the storm had any effect.

        2. MachDiamond Silver badge

          Re: Skynet

          "Knowing SpaceX, they chose to launch this batch anyway just to test whether riding out the storm was an option."

          Of course. Risking $100mn isn't a big deal for Elon.

      2. imanidiot Silver badge

        Re: Skynet

        Unless SpaceX is in the habbit of designing sats with lots of empty voids, mass generally rises at a power of 3 of any dimension increase, while frontal area only rises with the square of that increase (or not at all depending on orbital attitude). So it's very likely they'd be more resilient against effects like this

      3. MachDiamond Silver badge

        Re: Skynet

        "What would make a difference is launching with a Starship instead of a Falcon 9. More satellites on each launch and rumours are that the satellites will be bigger and heavier."

        I'm not hopeful that Starship will be a good platform. If they want to get it back, they'll need to work out some way to dispense the stack of sats and close the front back up again so is structurally sound enough to belly flop back to Earth. That's not going to be easy. It means putting more eggs in one basket as well.

        The issue seems to be volume more than mass or the F9H would be a possibility. The V.2 sats must be larger so fewer will fit in a standard F9 fairing. Maybe a bit heavier too or a new longer fairing would be much cheaper.

        Elon is a master of emo but he may have been telling too much when he said in a certain number of words that he was betting the future of SpaceX on Starlink which in turn may be highly dependent on getting the Raptor engines working as promised.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Skynet

      @Bartholomew

      Especially if a meteor slams 1 or 2 of them...

      1. MachDiamond Silver badge

        Re: Skynet

        "Especially if a meteor slams 1 or 2 of them..."

        I'd put my money on that bracket the holds the sats during launch smacking into a couple and they tell two friends and so on and so on....... There's a lot of junk in low Earth orbit and if it's going the other way the combined speed on impact is very impressive.

  5. Michael Hoffmann

    Insured?

    Shirley, they were insured?

    But crap, I would reckon they were some of the nice new 2.0 sats with friggin laser beams and all.

    Alternately, if they *were* insured and they were still the old model, Musk gets an upgrade for his premiums and doesn't have to use the old shelf-stock.

    Wait... you don't think it was insurance fraud and he triggered that storm?!

    1. LogicGate

      Re: Insured?

      Everybody knows that friggin laser beams are not enough. Musk needs to attach the friggin lasers to friggin sharks, then everything will go swimmingly after launch.

      On a more serious note: I would be very much surprised if the satelites were insured. That would be very much an "old space" approach. Better use the spare money to create more satelites.

      Also: Shielding would not have helped. Installing engines that are big enough to overcome the additional drag from the elevated atmosphere would have hleped, but this would mean that all other satelites would have to fly with over-sized (too heavy) engines installed. Better simply not to launch under these conditions. The fact that 9 units made it is a sign that it was very much touch and go. It COULD have worked. Now change the launch limitations, and in thefuture it WILL work.

      1. Anonymous Coward Silver badge
        Flame

        Re: Insured?

        That's the beauty of the SpaceX approach - they don't mind testing the limits to find out what is actually viable rather than just theoretically and being conservative with safety margins.

        Using their cheap, mass produced starlink satellites in such a situation is worth it - if the launch is a success they get extra resources in-orbit; if not then they've learnt the limits without risking anything that their customers cherish.

        Incumbents: it's deemed too risky; delay launch. SpaceX: 9 satellites in orbit & limits learned = success.

        (the booster was re-used 6 times and most likely will be used again)

        1. Gordon 10 Silver badge

          Re: Insured?

          Interestingly the estimated cost of a Starlink bird is $250k to $500k

          Assuming the lower end SpaceX have just lost a cool $10m on an experiment.....

          1. A.P. Veening Silver badge

            Re: Insured?

            Assuming the lower end SpaceX have just lost a cool $10m on an experiment.....

            No, SpaceX invested that amount in an experiment, the results of which will save SpaceX probably about double that within two years (and even more going on).

            1. RegGuy1 Silver badge
              Pint

              Re: Insured?

              And if they get to launch Starship next month that will be another experiment -- albeit on a much larger scale. It has proved to be a stunning way to develop their kit. You don't even notice, but it is probably every week they are sending up one or more Falcon 9/Heavys.

              And most launches now have some Starlink satellites tagged on.

              Hey Elon, let me buy you a virtual pint :-) ----->

            2. PenfoldUK

              Re: Insured?

              Whilst I can see that the "suck it and see" approach to engineering may produce benefits with the development of new rocket technologies such as Falcon 9/Heavy and Starship, given the decades of data available for satellites of all sizes this seems more of a waste of money than a legitimate experiment.

              I appreciate the delays in launching were not down to SpaceX (particularly that idiotic Cruise Ship), but launching when you've got a major storm warning seems overly risky. If not a fit of pique.

          2. John Robson Silver badge

            Re: Insured?

            And?

            How much does a launch, let alone the hardware, cost for a conventional rocket customer?

            That's a worthwhile test.

            1. Flocke Kroes Silver badge

              Re: Cost

              $62M for ride in a shiny new Falcon 9 that is recovered at sea. Used to be $50 for a slighty sooty ride. There is a discount for buying in bulk. The internal cost is believed to be about $20M. There are additional costs for things like payload integration and adding propellant to the satellites.

              1. Gordon 10 Silver badge

                Re: Cost

                So 80% of 20m = 16m - total cash sunk in experiment $26m

                1. John Robson Silver badge

                  Re: Cost

                  Yep - and they now *know* a condition that they can't get away with.

                  Far better than a "we're not quite sure".

                  1. MachDiamond Silver badge

                    Re: Cost

                    Yep - and they now *know* a condition that they can't get away with.

                    Not really. It's not a precise science estimating effects at the top of the atmosphere. Getting measurements isn't easy so most predictions are based on models and estimates. All that can be said is if the exact thing happens again, it would be bad to try and launch Starlink satellites. Rotate the Earth back or forward a couple of hours and it may be worse or acceptable. Changing the nature and intensity of the sun's burp will make a big difference too.

                    It's probably less expensive to be more cautious and reschedule when solar events happen.

          3. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Insured?

            @Gordon 10

            For what "pedo guy" is charging for the shoddy squariels he will recoup it in about 3 hours /S

          4. MachDiamond Silver badge

            Re: Insured?

            "Assuming the lower end SpaceX have just lost a cool $10m on an experiment....."

            Plus the cost of the rocket, the launch fees, employee overtime, loss of system increase, etc.

      2. Alan Brown Silver badge

        Re: Insured?

        Now I'm imagining sharks in space suits...

    2. jmch Silver badge

      Re: Insured?

      "Shirley, they were insured?"

      Probably yes. But then again, knowing insurance companies, some questions will be asked about liability given that the storm was forecasted and SpaceX were warned, but chose to go ahead with the launch anyway. So even if insured, not guaranteed SpaceX will get a payout, and almost guaranteed there premiums will be higher next time round.

      1. Hans Neeson-Bumpsadese Silver badge

        Re: Insured?

        SpaceX were warned, but chose to go ahead with the launch anyway

        My thoughts as well. A bit of a cavalier attitude IMHO...I hope they're a bit more cautious and risk averse for launches that contain human payload.

        1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

          Re: Insured?

          I would be absolutely amazed if SpaceX are insured for Starlink. For the same reason that governments don't insure their buildings.

          If you own several thousand buildings, you'd actually pay out more in insurance premiums in a year than the cost of rebuilding one of them. You are basically big enough to be your own insurer. Given the number of Starlink satellites, and launches, the premiums just wouldn't be worth it.

          At that point you might look at a different kind of insurance. You stop insuring individual components and launches, because the chance of a loss approaches certainty - but you might consider insurance for some sort of very unlikely but very damaging event - say more than 3 launches failing in a single year. Which given SpaceX's track record would probably be an affordable premium. Although even then, I doubt they've bothered. The thing they'll have insurance on is their factories, and maybe their launch facilities (though that's probably stupidly expensive too).

          1. Hans Neeson-Bumpsadese Silver badge

            Re: Insured?

            I imagine filling in the application form for insurance on a launch facility is a tricky one...

            Purpose/use of the insured premises?

            Regular intentional ignition and (sometimes) controlled explosion of tons of rocket fuel.

          2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge
            Mushroom

            Re: Insured?

            "The thing they'll have insurance on is their factories, and maybe their launch facilities (though that's probably stupidly expensive too)."

            3rd Party, Fire and Theft? "Wait...what? You take big towers of explosive and set light to them?"

            1. quxinot

              Re: Insured?

              If you insured the whole rocket, including the contents (read: propellant), wouldn't that be arson?

              1. M.V. Lipvig Silver badge

                Re: Insured?

                Yes, with precedence. Some guy insured a box of rare cigars, insured them, smoked them, then filed a claim. When the insurance company denied the claim he sued, and won 15,000 off of them

                https://www.truthorfiction.com/cigars-fire-ins/

                Fake story, but entertaining.

            2. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: Insured?

              Shit. Somebody's stolen the matches.

        2. awavey

          Re: Insured?

          Why is it cavalier? Theres no risk to launching their own Starlink satellites and having them "fail" to maintain orbit in this manner, and it absolutely expands SpaceXs knowledge about LEO, geostorms and their Starlink satellite capabilities. That's how we learn stuff you do practical testing and gain real data.

          Starlink is as much a testing proving ground for SpaceX rocket engineering, reliability and reusability as it is creating space internet.

          And its hilarious really, SpaceX launched Falcon 9 3 times in 3 days, a launch rate record I believe in space history launch terms, successfully landed all the boosters, which have achieved now over 100 successful landings, largely due to Starlink missions And it's so mundane it doesnt even get mentioned anymore,even though less than a decade ago the experts claimed it was impossible.

          And yet this is the same tech, the same boosters that launch human crews missions, so would you prefer SpaceX launched Falcon 9s repeatedly and in so doing learn about using their rockets that happen to put some expendable space internet stuff in orbit,or sat around waiting till conditions were absolutely perfect and let the humans take all the risks?

          1. Charles 9 Silver badge

            Re: Insured?

            That said, an 80% failure rate had to make them wince at least a little. The price of peogress for them this time went a little steep.

    3. Tams

      Re: Insured?

      No insurer is going to be happy with their insuree disregarding forecasts and warnings that if heeded would have avoided any loss.

      SpaceX are going to be paying out of pocket for this.

      1. Tom 7 Silver badge

        Re: Insured?

        Only 7 years before the next solar minimum. There will be a few more being knocked out by then.

        Even a baby Carrington event could blank out the whole system - and more importantly those in remote areas that need this.

        1. Alan Brown Silver badge

          Re: Insured?

          There will be none knocked out in future, They now know that launching in such conditions is inadvisable

    4. Mark 85 Silver badge

      Re: Insured?

      Wait... you don't think it was insurance fraud and he triggered that storm?!

      The catch here is that SpaceX knew about this solar storm and chose to ignore the warning. I've not heard any reason why they ignored it and decided to launch. But enquiring minds do wonder why they went ahead and launched.

      1. Alan Brown Silver badge

        Re: Insured?

        3 launches in a short period is good PR, the loss is legligable overall and the knowledge gained about atmospheric drag increase in such conditions is highly valuable

        How much did the first Falcon Heavy laaunch cost?

      2. MachDiamond Silver badge

        Re: Insured?

        "But enquiring minds do wonder why they went ahead and launched."

        Why was Starship SN11 launched (and lost) in the fog? Brains? No brains? Ok, no brains, off you go.

  6. ComputerSays_noAbsolutelyNo Silver badge

    At least they're not additional, long-lasting space garbage

    No matter how one thinks about Starlink,

    the procedure to deploy into a low orbit, which inherently cleans itself from duds is a prudent procedure.

    On the other hand, any satellite that dies in its final orbit will last much longer. And with the larger number of deployed sats, this is only a question of when, and not if.

    1. Mishak Silver badge

      "any satellite that dies in its final orbit will last much longer"

      Only if it fails completely, as they are de-orbited (in a "controlled" way) when they reach end-of-life.

      1. Tom 7 Silver badge

        Re: "any satellite that dies in its final orbit will last much longer"

        Except for the failed ones that cant be de-orbited of course.

        1. awavey

          Re: "any satellite that dies in its final orbit will last much longer"

          Except they naturally deorbit within 5 years if propulsion fails.

        2. Persona Silver badge

          Re: "any satellite that dies in its final orbit will last much longer"

          You get around that by designing in features that helps it to be grappled even if it is tumbling wildly. You then use another Starlink satellite that is close to end of life to grapple and take the bad one down with it.

          1. Pascal Monett Silver badge

            Yeah, sure. Because hooking satellites up in space is just that easy.

    2. Insert sadsack pun here Silver badge

      Re: At least they're not additional, long-lasting space garbage

      "if the satellites don't initially pass system checks, de-orbit and reentry will occur without producing space junk."

      I don't get it - do they burn up on re-entry? Or instead of creating space junk do they just end up creating earth junk as thousands of non-biodegradable pieces of satellite are spread across earth?

      1. dafe

        Re: At least they're not additional, long-lasting space garbage

        They burn up on re-entry.

        1. Jan 0

          Re: At least they're not additional, long-lasting space garbage

          > They burn up on re-entry.

          Then the metallic and semi-conductor oxides rain down on the surface instead.

          1. eldel

            Re: At least they're not additional, long-lasting space garbage

            And if you design and build sensitive enough detectors to actually measure that amount of ionized debris in the atmosphere (not just at the putative point of "impact" with said atmosphere) then I suspect you've got either a Nobel prize or a very lucrative DARPA contract coming your way.

          2. A.P. Veening Silver badge

            Re: At least they're not additional, long-lasting space garbage

            Then the metallic and semi-conductor oxides rain down on the surface instead.

            Sure, but the amount of those coming down from a satellite are only a fraction of what comes down naturally every day (meteors and meteorites).

    3. MachDiamond Silver badge

      Re: At least they're not additional, long-lasting space garbage

      "On the other hand, any satellite that dies in its final orbit will last much longer. And with the larger number of deployed sats, this is only a question of when, and not if."

      There are a bunch of those already. The number keeps going up so I have no idea of the current tally ,but it includes most of the first batch.

  7. druck Silver badge

    Read the damn weather forcast

    If the space weather was known about in advance, why wasn't the launch delayed by 48 hours?

    1. Tams

      Re: Read the damn weather forcast

      Because SpaceX/Musk.

      Typical 'Silicon Valley', go fast and break things.

    2. A.P. Veening Silver badge

      Re: Read the damn weather forcast

      If the space weather was known about in advance, why wasn't the launch delayed by 48 hours?

      Because this way they have real life data about the impact instead of theoretical models. Given that nine satellites made it to final orbit, they now understand the limits a lot better.

      1. John Robson Silver badge

        Re: Read the damn weather forcast

        If I am reading it correctly - those 9 sats had already raised their orbits when the storm hit (and brought the atmosphere up to meet the other 40)

        1. A.P. Veening Silver badge

          Re: Read the damn weather forcast

          But those 49 were launched together, so the timing difference was pretty slim, which makes for interesting knowledge.

          1. John Robson Silver badge

            Re: Read the damn weather forcast

            Not really - they get raised to higher orbits in groups to allow the orbits to get separated (the orbits rotate around the earth gently, so you raise a few, wait some time and you're now in a different orbital position with the same inclination, then raise a few more... rinse and repeat.

            And from what Scott Manley was saying it was primarily that they couldn't rotate themselves to position due to atmospheric drag, if they could then their thrusters could have kept them in orbit.

    3. Roland6 Silver badge

      Re: Read the damn weather forcast

      >If the space weather was known about in advance, why wasn't the launch delayed by 48 hours?

      The did an HP and didn't bother reading it, the only question is who are they going to sue: the weather forcasters or those responsible for the launch...

  8. cray74

    Better Than Space Junk

    On one hand, having 40 satellites junked would be rough for almost any other constellation. On the other hand, at least these cleaned themselves up rather than becoming space junk for decades. Those low orbits were deliberate and part of how Starlink proved to the FCC that over 95% of the constellation would controllably drop from orbit at their ends of life.

  9. Pete 2 Silver badge

    Obligatory ...

    > The Space Weather Prediction Center put a storm watch in place for the day of the launch as well as the day prior

    It's at times like this I really wish I'd listened to what the Space Weather Prediction Center had said.

    Why, what did they say?

    I don't know, I didn't listen.

    1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

      Re: Obligatory ...

      Now this is going to be your first day on a new planet. So I want you wrap up nice and warm, and no playing with any naughty bug-eyed monsters!

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Fling crap into the sky

    Expect the sky to throw some crap back

    1. ravenviz Silver badge
      Joke

      Re: Fling crap into the sky

      What goes up, Musk come down!

  11. msobkow Silver badge

    Good to know mother nature can still mess with the second biggest ego on the planet! :)

  12. JDX Gold badge
    Mushroom

    SpaceX ... without producing space junk.

    Yeah, funny one.

  13. Horatio Hellpop

    Their new name is ...

    SpaceXterminate!

  14. 5n0wcha1ns

    Space Weather Girl 4TW

    Elon should follow TamithaSkov on youtube for SpaceWeather. Shes really good at it. Much better than the bimbos doing earth weather in skimpy outfits.

  15. Klimt's Beast Would

    FLASH!.... AAAAAH!

    Saviour of the Astronomers?

    Nah mate, there's loads more already up there. More a flash in the pan then. Bummer.

  16. PhilipN Silver badge

    New word

    De-orbit.

    Love it! Going to throw that in, or out, every time there is a …. negative occurrence?

  17. David Gosnell
    Coat

    Spoiler alert

    It was the Sun wot won it

  18. Potemkine! Silver badge

    Weird

    So Mr Musk was whining a few months ago because SpaceX could go bankrupted, and now he takes the risk to wipe out dozens of satellite by not taking care of a forecasted magnetic storm??

    1. MachDiamond Silver badge

      Re: Weird

      "So Mr Musk was whining a few months ago because SpaceX could go bankrupted, and now he takes the risk to wipe out dozens of satellite by not taking care of a forecasted magnetic storm??"

      They are no where near out of the woods. They may be betting the whole company on Starlink and by some estimates, the new premium Starlink package is about where they need to be pricing their hardware and service to make a long term go of it. I'd steer clear of any IPO's.

  19. s. pam
    Big Brother

    Absolutely excellent news!

    Muck's space junk has ruined a number of evenings of telescope watching with their annoying space junk trails. It is past time to remove them and free the heavens.

    If he is so desperate to be Samuel L. Jackson from The Kings Men, he can build a smaller number of geostationary satellites and give them away for free.

  20. anthonyhegedus Silver badge

    How dare the solar mass ejection interfere with the Elongated Muskrat's plans!

    The sun should have waited till after the launch to burp forth plasma and ruin the glorious battery-botherer's day

  21. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Terrible shame and all that, had some promise just wish it was someone else as I refuse to worship on the alter of the "Cult of Musk" thanks.

  22. Jake Maverick

    yay! good news for once....we humans get blasted with enough invisible crap these days, less is better!

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